Today is Father’s Day, and although I sit here feeling so very blessed with the amazing men in my life whom I get to call Dad, Dad-in-Law, & Husband, my mind is also somewhere else.
I’m thinking of a story of a boy named Tejas that I recently read about. Tejas is a 10 year old boy who was forced to leave school and work in the cotton fields in India alongside his parents to supplement the family’s US $1.67 a day earnings.
With today being Father’s Day, wonder what it is like to be Tejas Dad. I wonder how it would feel to watch your own child labor all day, to sacrifice your son’s childhood to put food on the table, food that is barely sustaining the family, and to feel like you have no choice. I wonder what kind of relationship this precious 10 year old boy could possibly have had with his Father, when his days were spent laboring in the sweltering heat, enduring the unending chore in the cotton fields.
Tejas is not alone. India has largest number of child laborers in the world, with 13 million boys and girls, ages 5 – 14, relegated to fields, farms and factories.
This morning I just put my 11 year old daughter on a big bus headed to camp I saw her in the bus window, wiping her face, knowing her tears were streaming as she was about to head hours away from home to an amazing week of camp fun! She is super excited, but the tears were nervous tears, as she is attending camp this year without the company of her older sister. My husband and I stood waving until the bus drove away, both of us feeling like a little piece of our heart drove away with it. No parent wants to see their kid sad. We naturally all want to do whatever we can to make them feel safe, protected and find their smiles again.
My girl was wiping tears that I know will very soon disappear as she has lots of fun, smiles and laughter. I think of Tajas, and can imagine the little one wiping his face, too, wiping sweat from his brow as he worked along side his Father, and I wonder if tears mix with that sweat, or if he just accepted the work as a way of life. Either way, my heart breaks for him, and not just for him, but for over 13 million boys and girls, ages 5-14, relegated to fields, farms and factories.
My 3 girls are in that age range, and I can’t even bring myself to imagine them in the place of those sweet kids. Right this minute, while I sit here drinking my coffee in my air conditioned home, in this very day and age, so many, many children are laboring.
Something must be done.
June 12 was World Day Against Child Labor, and I am honored to use this space to get the word out about the IKEA Foundation and its partner Save the Children. They unveiled a $7 million program to protect 790,000 children living in cotton communities in India.
The effort is the second phase of a long-term program which aims to keep children out of cotton fields, and in classrooms where they can learn, play, grow and develop and be children. Phase I of the program reached more than 600,000 children in India! That is amazing.
The above picture of Tajas family is exactly why I wanted to help spread the word. Today, thanks to a Child Protection Committee established in his village through Save the Children and the IKEA Foundation Child Labor initiative, Tejas goes to school regularly and he aspires to become a police officer. Even Tejas’s mother joined a program-instituted self-help group in the village, where she learned why it’s important for children to go to school and how to save money for Tejas’s schoolbooks.
Why specifically the IKEA Foundation?
~ their approach is holistic. They aim to improve opportunities for children and youth in the world’s poorest communities but funding long-term programs that can creates long-lasting change.
~they work strategically with strong IKEA Foundation Partners, and use an innovative approach for huge results in 4 key areas of a child’s life:
*a place to call home
*a healthy start in life
*a quality education
*a sustainable family income
~currently funded programs are benefiting an estimated 100 million children.
~more than 10,000 migrant children moved back into their home communities thanks to the IKEA Foundation
~nearly 2,000 teachers trained & improved school enrollment rates in participating villages
~1,866 Anganwadi (health, education) workers trained in teaching practices, giving each village in the program a skilled community worker
Will you help me spread the word? You can like the IKEA Foundation Facebook to keep in touch with all that they are doing and easily spread awareness to your friends and family. Social channels is a GREAT way to quickly spread the word, but we need your help to do that. Join me!